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The University of Virginia Curry School of Education Receives $5 Million Grant to Improve School Readiness

December 12, 2003 -- Curry School education professor Robert C. Pianta was one of eight researchers across the country to receive a multi-million dollar grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Development to improve preschools and find the best ways to prepare preschool children for later success in school.

Pianta, who has been working in this area for many years, will seek to improve preschool teacher training and support through Internet-based technology with a $5 million grant over five years. The training will focus on child literacy, language development and building social relationships. It also will incorporate the importance of parental involvement for improving children’s school readiness.

Under the state-funded Virginia Preschool Classrooms Initiative, Pianta has been studying and planning how and what schools should do to impart the lifelong-learning skills that children, particularly those having learning difficulties, need to succeed academically. He has had “enthusiastic responses from nearly all [Virginia] school districts” for spring participation, he said. Preschool coordinators from public schools have been invited to a late January meeting on what the program entails.

“We want to help schools build a better infrastructure for teacher support,” especially poorer schools, Pianta said. Through the initiative, teachers will receive curricular materials and computers, as well as training and support in the best ways to teach with the materials.

Attached is the NICHD press release that describes the national initiative. Pianta can be reached at (434) 243-5483 or rcp4p@virginia.edu.

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Contact: NICHD Press Office

(301) 496-5133

HHS, Education Launch Research To Promote School Readiness Effort
Supports President Bush's Early Childhood Education Initiative

HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson today announced a new five-year research initiative with the Department of Education to find the best ways to prepare preschool children for later success in school.

In the initiative's first year, eight institutions across the country will receive $7.4 million in research grants to test preschool curricula, Internet-based teacher training, and the importance of parental involvement for improving children's readiness to enter school.

"This research will identify ways to help children get the most out of preschool so they can enter kindergarten ready to learn," Secretary Thompson said. "The strategies identified by these researchers will help identify effective pre-school curricula and teaching approaches. The research represents an important part of President Bush's early childhood education initiative."

The new research initiative grew out the 2001 White House Summit on Early Childhood Cognitive Development, which highlighted the need for better ways to help parents, teachers, and caregivers provide young children with the intellectual and social skills they need to succeed when they enter school.

The first-year grant funding includes $6.4 million from three HHS components -- the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development at the National Institutes of Health, the Administration for Children and Families and the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation. The Department of Education's Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services contributed $1 million for first year.

The following are the eight research centers, the centers' lead investigators, and each center's primary research focus:

Pennsylvania State University, Karen L. Bierman, Ph.D.
This site will compare curricula now in use in many Head Start classrooms to curricula based on the latest scientific findings. In all, 320 children from 40 randomly selected classrooms will be studied to see if the new curricula improve language development and social and emotional skills.

University of Pennsylvania, John W. Fantuzzo, Ph.D.
This site will test curriculum for preschool children from low-income, urban families. The study will allow researchers to test the effectiveness of a new preschool curriculum focusing on reading, math, and the social and emotional needs of children.

University of California, Los Angeles, Carollee Howes, Ph.D.
This site will focus on the educational needs of Latino children and will compare three types of early childhood programs: Head Start, private non-profit preschools, and family day care networks. The study seeks to improve the interactions between children and their teachers and caregivers in order to better prepare them for school.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Janis B. Kupersmidt, Ph.D.
This site will explore better ways of training preschool teachers in math and pre-literacy instruction. Participating teachers will receive training to help them meet children's needs in reading, math, and social and emotional skills.

Indiana University, Samuel L. Odom, Ph.D.
This site will study how poverty, disability, and minority status may influence children's ability to learn, and will involve 600 at-risk preschool children in five locations across the country.

University of Virginia, Robert C. Pianta, Ph.D.
This site will examine preschool teacher training and support through Internet-based technology. The training will focus on child literacy, language development and building social relationships. Four hundred classrooms will be involved.

University of Chicago, C. Cybele Raver, Ph.D.
This site will identify ways to decrease the risks posed by behavior problems among a group of low-income preschool-aged children. Approximately 640 children will be involved at eight Head Start sites in Chicago. Researchers will examine how training for teachers, the presence of teacher's aides, and access to mental health professionals can benefit young children's school readiness.

University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Susan M. Sheridan, Ph.D.
This study seeks to foster parental involvement in high-risk families. The goal of the study is to improve school readiness by improving interactions between parents and children in the home. The study will evaluate the overall benefits of a parent-focused intervention in both home and school environments.

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Note: All HHS press releases, fact sheets and other press materials are available at http://www.hhs.gov/news. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services • 200 Independence Avenue, S.W. • Washington, D.C. 20201

Contact: Anne Bromley, (434) 924-6861

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Contact the Office of University Relations at (434) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (434) 924-7550.

SOURCE: U.Va. News Services

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